Focus on Central Asia


Events: Spring 2010

April 14, 7:30PM, Innovation Hall, Room 105
Valerie Bunce,"Transnational Networks, Diffusion Dynamics, and Electoral Change in the Postcommunist World."  Valerie Bunce is the Aaron Binenkorb Professor of International Studies and Professor of Government at Cornell University and is a Visiting Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, DC.  Dr. Bunce co-edited Democracy and Authoritarianism in the Postcommunist World (2009) with Michael McFaul and Kathryn Stoner-Weiss and is the author of Subversive Institutions: The Design and Destruction of Socialism and the State (1999).

March 23, 3PM, Johnson Center Cinema
Larry Diamond, "Global Recession of Democracy," (Sponsored by  the GMU Graduate Political Science Society)

Events: Spring 2009

April 6, 5PM, Student Union Building II, Ballroom 1, Front
John Schoeberlein, "The Akromiya Phenomenon: Testing Our Knowledge of Central Asian
Islam."  If one attempts to survey the landscape of post-Soviet Islam based onWestern sources and the declarations of governments in the region, the dominant features appear to be a series of radical movements, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,  Hizb ut-Tahrir, and "the Akromiya movement."   These movements are offered as evidence of the threat to civil order and thousands of arrests have been made across Central Asia of people accused of association with these movements.  But what of the evidence that these claims are based on? The so-called "Akromiya movement" offers the starkest example of far-reaching threat claims -- and indeed, justification of the largest massacre in Central Asia since early Soviet times (i.e., in Andijan, May 2005) -- in the absence of reliable evidence.  As such, this case allows a particularly revealing study of how threat claims are produced, and on what they are based in lieu of evidence.  The study of "knowledge production" that forms the basis of "expertise" on Islam in Central Asia suggests that production of "expertise" is guided more to meet particular demands than by the availability of evidence.  The key actors in the knowledge production process include the "experts," as well as those institutions which create demand for expert positions and which finance expert analysis.  John Schoeberlein is Lecturer on Central Asia, Dept. of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, Harvard.  This event is cosponsored by GMU's Department of Public and International Affairs, the Center for Global Studies, and Global Affairs.

March 25, 1:30PM, Dewberry Hall, South

Stephen Kotkin (Princeton University) and Eric McGlinchey (George Mason), "1989: Looking Back, Looking Forward--The Soviet and Post Soviet Perspective"

March 24, 8PM, Center for the Arts
Mikhail Gorbachev, "1989: Looking Back, Looking Forward."  Conference homepage summary: "Former Soviet President and Nobel Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev will deliver the keynote address at a conference at George Mason University on March 24, 2009. The conference, "1989: Looking Back, Looking Forward," will offer a critical perspective on how the lessons of the end of the Cold War should be applied to the promotion of peace and international cooperation in the coming decades."

Past Events:

October 28, 7:20 PM, Student Union Building I, Room A/B
Sada Aksartova, "US Support for Post-Soviet NGOs: A Sociological Analysis."  Since 1992, the US government and private American foundations have spent more than two billion dollars on promoting democracy and civil society in the 12 post-Soviet states of Eurasia.  In her talk, Dr. Aksartova will present a sociological analysis of US assistance targeting post- Soviet nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). How do US donors and local NGOs interact? What does a post-Soviet NGO look like?  Aksartova will discuss how US civil society assistance operates on the ground, focusing in particular on (i) the material and symbolic resources that US donors have deployed to diffuse the institutional form of the professional NGO in host societies and (ii) the implications of her analysis for the ongoing debate about the impact of US democracy promotion in Russia and the rest of post-Soviet Eurasia. Sada Aksartova is a Postdoctoral Fellow at George Mason's Center for Global Studies.

September 8, 2008, 4:30 PM, Johnson Center Cinema
Ed Schatz, "Can the US Improve Its Image Abroad? Evidence from Central Asia."  Increasingly, the US State Department is relying on efforts of public diplomacy to improve America's image abroad. Schatz and co-author Renan Levine test the theoretical efficacy of these efforts through an experiment. Participants in their experiment were recruited in six locations in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. All but those participants randomly assigned to a control group read a quote about the US. Schatz and Levine varied attribution of this quote to President Bush, an Ambassador, an ordinary American or to no one.   Among several findings, Schatz and Levine find that the identity of the messenger matters, as those who read the quote attributed to Bush tended to have lower opinions of the US. In this talk, Schatz will reflect upon the findings from this experiment, as well as other evidence of America’s changing image in Central Asia from 1991 to 2008.  Full paper available <here>.  Ed Schatz is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto.  

March 30, 2008, 3:00 PM, 3401 Fairfax Drive, Room 251, Arlington, VA (VA Square Metro)
Richard Wright, "Some Musings on the Origins of the Turkmen Göl"
Wright's talk will focus on the Khiva Khanate with special reference to the Chodor confederation, and the Bukhara Khanate and the Ersari. Richard Wright, the instigator of the Washington Textile Group, is author of "Caucasian Carpets and Covers" with John Wertime (Hali Publications, 1995). His bimonthly "R.E. Wright Research Report" is available through his web site

March 27, 2008, 2:00 PM, 3401 Fairfax Drive, Room 317 Arlington, VA (VA Square Metro)

"Human Trafficking in Central Asia: The Case of Kyrgyzstan," A panel discussion on human trafficking and victims’ assistance featuring:
     Taalaibek Abdraimov, Chairperson, NGO “Podruga”
     Kanatbek Osmonov, Lawyer, Osh City Committee on Migration
     Igor Shugalskiy, Public Prosecutor, Court of the City of Bishkek
     Ainura Usupbekova, Chairperson, NGO “Psychological Crisis Center"
The panel will be moderated by Dr. Louise Shelley, Director of George Mason's Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC).  TraCCC and the Focus on Central Asia Program express appreciation to the Open World Leadership Program ( for its role in financing the travel of this delegation of  Kyrgyzstan's emerging leaders in anti-trafficking and victims’ assistance.  Please note, this event is being held at our Arlington campus, two blocks from the Virginia Square Metro.  Directions are available <here>

April 24, 2007, 3:00-4:30 PM, SUB 1, Room C
Douglas Northrop, "Earthquakes and Empire: Remembering Disaster in Central Asia"
Over the last two centuries, Russian and Soviet governments have repeatedly attempted to build a new political and social world in Central Asia. What happens, though, when that world collapses? Cultural encounters in Central Asia took many forms -- but efforts to establish Moscow's authority faced particular challenges in extreme climactic conditions and "natural" hazards. This talk considers the impact of one such hazard, earthquakes, in shaping the actions and outlook of Russian officials and local populations, and it asks how the recurrent experience of seismic calamity shaped efforts to remember and commemorate disasters in the imperial periphery.
Douglas Northrop is Associate Professor of Modern Central Asian Studies, University of Michigan, and author of Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia.  He is currently working on a book titled Five Days that Shook the World: Earthquakes and Empire on the Eurasian Frontier.

May 2, 2007, 4:30-6:00 PM, Research I, Room 163
Stephen Kotkin, "Empire without Nostalgia"
“Eurasia" as a term has suddenly become ubiquitous from scholarly journals and foundation programs to journalism and everyday speech. But is the idea of "Eurasia" the disease masquerading as the cure? How are we to understand the history and possible future of the vast space that lies between Germany and Japan? Could it be that we have it all wrong? This talk will examine practices of exchange and governance, from the imperial Mongols to Vladimir Putin and Nursultan Nazarbaev.
Stephen Kotkin is Professor of Russian History and Director of the Program in Russian Studies at Princeton University. His books include Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization and Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000.

April 9, 2007, 4:30-6:00 PM, Mason Hall, Room D3 A&B
Akihiro Iwashita, "The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Sino-Russian Relations in Central Asia"
Professor Iwashita specializes in Russian foreign policy and Sino-Russian relations at Hokkaido University. His recent publications can be found <here>

March 29, 2007, 4:30-6:00 PM, Research 1, Room 163
Shoshana Keller, "Story, Time and Dependent Nationhood in the Uzbek History Curriculum"
In the 1950s the Soviet school system stabilized and teachers incorporated non-Russian national histories into the elementary curriculum. Keller argues that in Soviet Uzbekistan teachers defined Uzbek nationhood partly through historical narrative, which told children that the Uzbek people had existed continuously from ancient times but the nation achieved independence only under Russian/Soviet leadership. Children learned that for millenia Uzbek hero/martyrs had fought losing battles against foreign invaders. The best Uzbeks were from the lower classes, but the nation had also produced high culture. Above all, children were taught to imagine themselves not within Eurasian Islamic historical time, but within European historical time as envisioned by Marx, Lenin and Stalin. What children learned about Uzbek history in school was central to the formation of a personal sense of national identity and to the larger Soviet project of nation-building. For more information:                                                                                   Shoshana Keller is Associate Professor of Russian and Eurasian history at Hamilton College and author of To Moscow, Not Mecca: The Soviet Campaign Against Islam in Central Asia, 1917–1941 (2001).


Events: Fall 2006

December 4, 2006, 4:30-6:00 PM, Johnson Center 3rd Floor Meeting Rm B
Roger Kangas, "The United States in Central Asia: Re-Assessing Strategic Relationships"
Perceptions of the US have soured in Central Asia. Washington's flagging stature in the region is the result of changing US policies in post-Andijon Central Asia as well as the fact that other states have pursued active engagement strategies in the region which are now showing signs of success. Dr. Kangas examines relations between the US and Central Asian states and explores the relative importance of these relations to broader US and Central Asian strategic interests.
Roger Kangas is the Marshall Center professor of Central Asian Studies.

November 15, 2006, 4:30-6:00 PM, Johnson Center 3rd Floor Meeting Rm A
Adeeb Khalid, "Understanding Soviet Islam: Religion, Nationality and Citizenship in Soviet Central Asia" <New Eurasia Event Summary>
The “Islamic threat” has occupied a prominent place in analyses of Central Asian politics ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But what is post-Soviet Islam and what place does it occupy in society? Seventy years of Soviet rule left a deep imprint of local conceptions of Islam. Adeeb Khalid argues that post-Soviet Islam cannot be understood without taking into account the transformations of the Soviet period. This lecture will discuss the place of Islam in Central Asian society during the Soviet period, exploring the various connections between religion, national identity, and Soviet patriotism.
Adeeb Khalid is Professor of History at Carleton College, and the author of Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia (Forthcoming, University of California Press).

November 6, 2006, 4:30-6:00 PM, Mason Hall, Mason D1
Henry Hale, "Revolution and Repression in Central Asia: Implications of Eurasia's Recent Experience"
While Eurasia's colored revolutions of 2003-05 are frequently interpreted as democratic breakthroughs, they are better interpreted as "ordinary" dynamics that are typical of post-Soviet systems and that do not usually produce much lasting change. This logic implies that the potential for new revolutions in Central Asia has not passed, though such events are likely only under certain conditions. The logic also suggests that future Central Asian revolutions are likely to be more violent than the original colored revolutions. Implications for Tajikistan's presidential election will be discussed.
Henry Hale is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University.

October 26, 2006, 2:00 PM, Rayburn House Office Building, Rm 2200, Washington, D.C.
"Helsinki Commission Briefing on Tajikistan's Upcoming Presidential Elections"
<Briefing>    Media Coverage: <Voice of America Article on Briefing><New Eurasia Event Summary>, <EurasiaNet Article on Briefing>, <>
    Dr. Eric M. McGlinchey, Assistant Professor of Government and Politics, George Mason University
    Dr. Dennis de Tray, Vice President, Center for Global Development
    Anthony C. Bowyer, Program Manager for Central Asia, IFES


October 23, 2006, 3:00-4:30 PM, Dewberry Hall (South)
Council on Foreign Relations and George Mason University's Center for Global Studies, "Iraq and the Middle East"
     Stephen Biddle, Senior Fellow, Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
     Steven Cook, Douglas Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
     Peter Mandaville, Director of the Center for Global Studies, George Mason University
     Eric McGlinchey, Assistant Professor, Government & Politics, George Mason University
     Reuben Brigety, Assistant Professor, Government & Politics, George Mason University


Past Events: Fall 2005-Spring 2006

April 24, 2006, 4:30 PM-6:00 PM, Student Union Building II, Room 7 (Map)
Daniel Kimmage, "Bulldogs under the Carpet: Influence Groups, Informal Politics, and the Unstable Post-Soviet Status Quo"
Political upheaval in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan in 2003-2005 fueled media reports of democracy on the march in the former Soviet Union, but the real lesson of those events was that the post-Soviet status quo may not be as stable as it seems. Working from the recent example of an opposition leader murdered in Kazakhstan, Daniel Kimmage examines the intricate web of influence groups and informal politics that permeate the power structures of the post-Soviet world from Central Asia to Russia. It is vitally important to lift the curtain on these informal structures, Kimmage argues, not only to obtain the clearest possible view of the struggles for money and power taking place in the region now, but also to prepare for the threats to its stability that they may unleash in the future.
Daniel Kimmage is the Central Asia regional analyst with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Online and editor of the "RFE/RL Central Asia Report."  His recent analysis of Kazakhstan can be found <here.>

March 22, 2006, 6:00 PM, Harris Theatre (near Robinson Hall B) Fairfax Campus
H.E. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan "Afghanistan from the Bonn Process to the London Conference and the Path Ahead"
On December 22, 2001, during the Bonn Intra-Afghan talks, Dr. Abdullah was selected as the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Interim Administration of Afghanistan under Chairman Hamid Karzai. Dr. Abdullah Abdullahreceived an M.D. in ophthalmology from Kabul University's Department of Medicine in 1983. Prior to his appointment as Foreign Minister, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah served as special Advisor and Chief Assistant to Ahmad Shah Masood and as Deputy Foreign Minister and spokesperson for the Northern Alliance. *NO BACK PACKS OR LARGE BAGS ALLOWED*

December 8, 2005, 4:00 PM-6:00 PM, Johnson Center, Assembly Room C
Laura Adams, Princeton University, "The Spectacular State: Culture and Power in Uzbekistan"
Laura Adams received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently a lecturer in Sociology at Princeton University. Dr. Adams is finishing her book manuscript entitled The Spectacular State: Culture and National Identity in Uzbekistan and is working on a co-edited volume on ethnic and religious tolerance in Central Asia.

November 30, 2005, 4:15 PM-6:00 PM, Johnson Center, Assembly Room F
Dr. Stephen Young, U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (August 2003-August 2005)
"Kyrgyzstan's Democratic 'Revolution' and Its Implications for Central Asia"
Dr. Young received his Ph.D. (1980) in History from the University of Chicago. In addition to serving as Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Dr. Young has directed the State Department's Office of Caucasus and Central Asian Affairs and has held international posts in Beijing, Moscow and Taipei.  Ambassador Young's recent interview with NHK-TV can be found <here>.

November 7, 2005, 4:00 PM-6:00 PM, Johnson Center, Assembly Room C
Edil Baisalov, "The March 2005 Uprising in Kyrgyzstan: Causes and Consequences"
Mr. Baisalov is the chair of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society. The Coalition works to promote human rights and political reform in Central Asia. In May, 2005, Mr. Baisalov appeared before the US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations to provide testimonial on the March 2005 Kyrgyz uprising. His testimony can be found <here>.   Kyrgyz media coverage (AkiPress) of Mr. Baisalov's talk at George Mason available <here>.

October 14, 2005, 10:00 AM-5:30 PM, George Mason Arlington Campus
The Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR) at George Mason University announces the third seminar from the series of Policy Seminars on Conflicts in Eurasia. This final seminar on October 14, 2005, will include presentations of final papers and a discussion on conflict prevention in the region. Please see the ICAR website <> for a complete listing of presenters.

September 12, 2005, 5:00 PM, Johnson Center Room B
William Fierman, "Language Policy and the Challenge of Nation Building in Kazakhstan"
Professor Fierman is the Director of the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center at Indiana University, Bloomington. His current research focuses on government policies affecting language, Islam and state identity. <Download Paper>


Past Events: Fall 2004 - Spring 2005

September 2004
Professor Mark Katz, Public and International Affairs Department

October 2004
Professor Larry Butler, History and Art History Department

November 2004
Professor Julie Christensen, Modern and Classical Languages Department, Russian Studies Department

December 2004
Dr. Nancy Lubin, NJA Associates, Inc.

February 2005
ICAR Policy Seminar on Conflicts in Eurasia (PSCE)
George Mason University, Arlington Campus

March 2005
Professor Sumaiya Hamdani, History and Art History Department

April 2005
Paul Stronski, Independent Scholar

Focus on Central Asia
George Mason University, Robinson A201 - MSN 3F4
4400 University Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030
Tel: 703-993-2960, Fax: 703-993-1399,
Updated: Spring 2010